Americans now throw away about 130,000 computers per day, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In a piece on Salon last week, writer Andrew Leonard laid out the raw truth: There is no ethical smartphone. The sins of Apple's iPhone factories, where laborers literally and figuratively kill themselves in pursuit of faster gadgets, are well-documented. But the problem, Leonard notes, extends far beyond Apple. "For every smartphone manufacturer," he writes, "the model of globalized production is fundamentally similar."
Just as the problem isn't only Apple's, neither is it relegated to phones. Laptops, televisions, digital cameras, and every consumer electronic in between wreak havoc on people and environments at every point in their lifespan—save, of course, for when you own them. From the mining that yields their minerals to their assembly line production to, ultimately, their disposal, our devices make messes that leave people sick and landscapes pillaged. How do we live up to our moral ideals without having to quit our jobs and live in an off-the-grid, self-sustaining commune? The answer might be simpler than you think.